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This survey reports a range of experiences from 641 online sex workers selling sexual services via digital technologies during 2016/2017. The survey covers a range of topics including experiences at work, job satisfaction, types of online work, crimes experienced in the working context, relationships with the police and demographics of individuals doing online sex work. The BtG study found that the internet was of significant importance to sex workers indifferent aspects of their work, with 65.3% (n=419) agreeing or strongly agreeing that they would not do sex work if it was not for the internet. This related particularly to those working exclusively in webcam/phone sex work, where 90.5% (n=67) tended to or strongly agreed with this statement, but also to more than two-thirds (67.5%; n=131) of independent sex workers/escorts who did not work in any other sex industry sector. The responses to the survey of sex workers showed the internet played a large part in improving working practices. As we are aware from our prior research that many sex workers use more than one online platform and/or networking site, we asked in our promotional material that people complete the survey only once. We also asked when they arrived at the survey: where they accessed the link from on this occasion; which other online platforms they used; and whether they thought they had already completed the survey. This enabled us to reduce the number of potential duplicate entries, but also to obtain some idea of the overlap between different advertising and networking sites. Note: as the software we used does not collect IP addresses or any other identifying data, we were not able as in some surveys to recognise duplicate entries through this means. The survey was designed using Bristol Online Surveys (BOS), a UK-based online survey tool aimed at academic, educational and public sector communities. BOS is compliant with all UK data protection laws. As some of the websites promoting the survey are not UK-based and have a wider reach than the UK, we specified in our invitation to participate that the survey was for sex workers living in and/or working in the UK. In order to verify whether respondents not based in the UK worked in the UK, we also asked about geographical place of work as well as domicile. Despite specifying the target group for the survey, the online questionnaire was completed by a small number of sex workers who neither lived in nor worked in the UK and these were removed from the data prior to analysis. The survey commenced on 7th November 2016. It was initially advertised on six websites, including a major advertising site for escorts and webcammers with more than 25,000 profiles for female, male and transgender escorts, as well as being promoted through Twitter, facebook and emails to a small number of contacts. By the following week, it had been advertised on nine sites, including the project’s own website, with continuing promotion also on social media. At this stage the invitation to take part in the survey had not appeared on any major sites used by male sex workers and reminders were sent out to the two sites which had agreed to promote the research. By the end of 2016, the survey had been promoted on 15 advertising websites, Beyond the Gaze’s own website, on social media (Twitter and facebook), through sex work projects’ contacts and by snowballing methods. The survey closed on 23rd January 2017, with 652 completed responses and 6 partial responses, which were removed prior to analysis. A further 11 respondents neither lived nor worked in the UK and these were also removed from the dataset, leaving a final total of 641 respondents living and/or working in the UK.
Technology, particularly digital communication, has had a profound impact on how we organise our lives, conduct our relationships and the transactions of commerce and retail. The sex industry has followed this trend, with the online sex markets expanding and diversifying, changing the shape of how sex is bought and sold. Yet no regulation and very little policing focuses on the Internet-based sex markets. Our overarching question is: How has the Internet shaped the 21st Century adult commercial sex industry in the UK and what is the role of regulation? Our research focuses on the gaps in knowledge, in terms of how the market is structured, how it functions and how it is currently regulated. We are concerned with those individuals who work legally in their own homes, or as escorts doing outcalls to hotels and clients' homes, all away from the ordinary gaze of policing. There has been no attention to the interactions between technology and types of commercial sex such as webcam sex; performing live sex acts and chat; sexual story telling; and how niche markets have developed both allowing sex workers to innovate as well as opening up working opportunities. Therefore our overall inquiry seeks to explain how regulation interacts with the Internet setting in relation to the experience of vulnerability and safety. Is working via the Internet safer for sex workers? Are there unintended safety issues? Are sex workers made more vulnerable by the isolation of the Internet or does technology provide mechanisms to enhance safety? Therefore the aims of this research are threefold: a)to understand the wider theoretical significance of new technologies for changing the social practice of sexual consumption and the sex industry. b) to map the trends and understand the working practices in Internet-based sex work markets within the broader processes of the regulation and policing of sex work in the UK. c) to facilitate the integration of Internet-based sex work into safety and health-related provision, policies and agencies. We intend to answer these questions using a mixed methodology to gather new empirical knowledge, and have designed a project consisting of a large national online survey of sex workers; qualitative interviews with 80 sex workers and 40 interviews those involved in the policing and regulation of online sex work activities (such as the police, Home Office representative, IT specialists). Peer researchers will assist in the recruitment of participants, promoting the project as well as reviewing the progress of the Impact Plan. In addition, there is an integrated service provision and developmental role built into the project team through a Research, Support and Development Netreach Officer. Beyond the academy, the project has 3 key beneficiary groups who are collaborators on the project: 1) Police through the Association of Chief Police Officers and the National Lead for Prostitution, policy makers (local and national government. 2) Sex workers who work online and the broader sex work community. 3) sex work projects and practitioners who work with sex workers - both statutory and third sector, including sexual health practitioners who deliver specific clinical services to sex workers. These groups will benefit in the following ways: 1) a practitioner outreach service with sex workers (all genders) via the Internet (known as Netreach) will be delivered on a weekly basis providing information on safety, signposting to health, welfare and offering a confidential listening service for 3 years. 2) In collaboration with partners the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, the development of a Netreach toolkit for good practice models of Internet outreach. 3) Reduction in violence and crimes against sex workers and broader access to justice for this group. 4) Overall impact aims are to inform and influence legislation and policy in the regulation of prostitution through engaging in government processes and expert witness requests.
- Single study
- United Kingdom
- Beyond the Gaze: The Working Practices, Regulation and Safety of Internet-based Sex Work in the UK, 2016-2018
- Single study